Sunday, April 21, 2013

Three Minute Time Out

Do you have a spare three minutes? If your answer is:

“No not really. I have so many other things to be doing, I don’t really have time to be reading this!”

Then this post is written for you!

I used to spend my life on fast forward. I was always busy, always doing and I loved it. I thrived by achieving and I got a high from ticking things off my list. I worked in project management, so timescales, deadlines and planning every last detail was my job and was becoming my life. My social life was scheduled with the same degree of organisation and “Work hard, play hard” was my motto. But you can only run for so long before your body gets tired. My doctor suggested the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course when my health deteriorated and I was having panic attacks.

One of the most useful techniques from the course, and one that I use on a daily basis, is the three-minute breathing space, which I will share with you now.

The three-minute breathing space 
Thank you to Dr Carla Croft for her permission to use this text from her MBSR course 

Minute 1: Awareness and acknowledging

Bring yourself into the present moment by deliberately adopting an erect and dignified posture. If possible, close your eyes. Then bring the focus of awareness to your inner experience and ask “What is going on for me right now… bodily sensations… thoughts….and in feelings?”

In may be helpful to put experiences into words, e.g., say in your mind “A feeling of anger is arising” or “Self-critical thoughts are here.” As best you can, fully register and acknowledge your experience, even if it is unwanted, instead of turning away. Accept all of your experiences in the body, emotions and thoughts, and stay with them for a few seconds, allowing any negative feelings or experiences to be present.

Minute 2: Gathering

Then gently focus your full attention to your breathing. Experience fully each in-breath and each out-breath, as they follow, one after the other.

Try noting, at the back of your mind;  “breathing in….breathing out…” or counting each breath “inhaling, one……exhaling, one”. Focus on your breath for one minute, which for most people is 12 breaths.

Your breath can function as an anchor to bring you into the present and help you tune into a state of awareness and stillness.

Minute 3: Expanding Awareness

Expand your awareness around your breathing to the whole body, and the space it takes up, as if your whole body is breathing. Include especially any sense of discomfort, tension or resistance. If these sensations are present, then take your awareness there by “breathing in to them” on the in-breath. Then breathe out from the sensations, softening and opening with the out-breath. Perhaps say to yourself on the out-breath “It’s okay whatever it is, it’s okay; let me be open to it.”

Become aware of and if necessary, adjust your posture and facial expression. Have a sense of the space around you and hold everything in awareness. The sequence is like an hour-glass, wide focus followed by narrow focus followed by wide. As best you can, bring this expanded awareness to the next moments of your day.

You can use this exercise as a way to step out of automatic pilot mode and reconnect with the present moment. It is especially helpful in moments of anxiety or upset but can also be used throughout your day to reset your mind and body. 

For more information on mindfulness courses and resources visit

Friday, April 19, 2013

Infertility and Depression 2 for the price of 1

The dictionary definition of infertile is:

1. Absent or diminished fertility.
2. The persistent inability to conceive a child.

And (part of) the dictionary definition of depression is:

1. A feeling of being extremely unhappy.
2. A condition in which a person is so unhappy they cannot live a normal life.
3. An area, which has sunk below its surroundings; a hollow.

I left that last description in as I think that sums up the feeling of infertility more than any of the others, it is a feeling of emptiness.

Depression is a very strong word, but also one that is overused. How many of us have had a bad day and used the phrase “I am so depressed”? The ironic thing is that once you might actually be suffering from the effects of depression, you are highly unlikely to ever use that phrase.

Signs of depression include; feeling anxious, agitated or worried, feeling like you are on the edge of tears, losing interest in friends, family and your favourite things, loss of self-confidence, being unable to concentrate on daily tasks and activities, feeling tired all the time and reduced interest in sex. The last one being particularly helpful at this time in your life!

Infertility sucks all of the joy and colour out of life and due to the fact that many couples do not tell their friends and family that are trying to conceive can mean that they are very isolated.

While I hate labels and both the words infertile and depression are depressing enough in their own right, realising that these feelings are perfectly normal, you are in no way alone in feeling like this and that there is a huge amount you can do to help yourself is the first step to positive change in your life.

Over the past two years I have spent a great deal of time researching and learning about the link between the mind and the body. The majority of sources all indicate that the same four techniques can be used to increase happiness and balance emotional and physical health; therefore increasing fertility.

1. Mindfulness
2. Gratitude
3. Connection
4. Intention

Mindfulness is a mind-body approach to well-being that can help you change the way you think about experiences and reduce stress and anxiety. It combines techniques like meditation, breathing exercises and stretching with elements of cognitive therapy to help break negative thought patterns.

Being grateful for what you have is so simple but can easily be forgotten when your life is not going to plan. Keeping a gratitude journal and listing five things you are grateful for every evening really does make a difference to how you view your life. You can start with the big things like your partner and family and then keep adding to the journal with anything and everything you are grateful for in life. On my list tonight will be Waitrose gluten-free hot cross buns. Perfection!

Connection with others is what many believe to be what life is all about. I am blessed with the support of my fantastic husband, amazing friends and loving family, but I still need support and advice from those who can really relate to what I am going through. I have built up my own support team to include; an acupuncturist, a herbalist, a mindfulness coach and the Infertility Network UK,  a fantastic charity that provides advice, information and support. On the back of this I have set up Mindful Mumas-to-be to share what I am learning and to create a support community. Please do join us if this blog resonates with you. 

Intention means deciding what you want and more importantly why you want it, setting realistic goals and working towards them in a consistent manner. In terms of fertility this could be deciding that you want to find out more about nutrition in order to ensure that you are supporting your body in the best way that you can. Your goal could be to find a nutritionalist or spend time researching on the internet and put together your own diet plan which you will then consistently follow. It is also important to create goals for every area of your life, relationship, health, work, leisure time, friends and family, to ensure that your life is balanced, rather than focusing wholly on your fertility. 

Monday, April 15, 2013


So I am currently on a TTC sabbatical after years off OC BC, monitoring CD, O, CM and lots of LOL BD with DH. Impatiently waiting out the 2WW LP to POAS with FMU on a OTC FRE HPT hoping for a BFP to be PG PMS free with a EDD but no MS. 
We have tried OPK, PIO, FSH and HCG, had a HSG and numerous US, analysed CP, EW and SA, tried IUI with AI and seen an INF NP and RE. Still no BFP, DS or DD just many BFN and AF’s. Trying to up my BMI for ART IVF following LAP for ENDO. Hope this made you LOL.

LOL MM2B xxx
PS Just found out about HEPA must investigate!
PSS Yes I have far too much TOMH but this has been SF and has MMFB and MMSAGAWHDTSFYOTBAM.
PPSS OK I made the last four up!

Key to TTC Acronyms: See link below. This really is GOOH!

HEPA = Hamster Egg Penetration Assay is a real thing!

Key to my Acronyms:
MM2B = Mindful Muma-to-be
TOMH = Time on my hands
SF = Super fun
MMFB = Made me feel better
MMSAGAWHDTSFYOTBAM = Made me smile and giggle and will hopefully do the same for you on this beautiful April morning
GOOH = Getting out of hand!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Are you willing to love your future child unconditionally?

Imagine your future, your child has made a mistake. They have not lived up to your expectations. You are disappointed, upset and angry. How do you react? Do you shout? Do you tell them just how awful they have been? Do you sit them down and list every bad thing about them? Do you keep running over their mistake, time and time again, days, weeks, even months after the event?

Or would you view this mistake as part of their education? Do you explain calmly why you are upset and then how they could act differently in the future? Do you encourage them to take risks and to know that mistakes are a part of life, the way that we all learn?

Now ask yourself each of these questions again, but with a slight twist.

Are you willing to love yourself unconditionally? The first time I asked myself this question I responded with a blank. I had never even considered that this could be a question, could be a choice. The voice in my head that keeps me motivated, keeps me pushing forward and moving onwards and upwards has slowly over the years become my worst critic. “I should have tried harder. I wasn’t focused enough. I am so disappointed in myself.”

When faced with infertility and month after month of failing to succeed at the thing I want most in the world, that voice in my head has became harsher, more critical and just plain nasty. “What is wrong with me? Why is my body failing me? I’m too stressed. This is my fault. What if I never get to be a mother?”

Trying to conceive, and viewing each month you get a negative result as a failure, chips away at your self-confidence. However, developing self-compassion allows you to be kind to yourself when you need it the most, and eliminating negative self-talk allows you to handle stress in a more constructive way. 

The first step is simply to become aware of how you speak to yourself. For most of us, we are so used to talking to ourselves in a negative way that just becoming aware that this is not helpful is a massive leap forward. Whenever you notice yourself using negative self-talk evaluate if there is productive outcome to be taken, if you are telling yourself off for smoking for example, when you know this has an adverse affect on fertility, then replace with a kinder more supportive statement.

Negative self-talk
Replace with

I must stop smoking/ drinking/ working till midnight.
I now choose to put my health and that of my future child first. I can do this. I choose to do this.

Failed again!
This was just one cycle. I can be kind to myself. How can I best take care of myself at this time?

I am too stressed to get pregnant.     
Take 3 deep breaths. Stressing about being stressed is not helpful! What can I do today to help myself unwind and relax?

Why is my body failing me?
My body is designed to create new life. How can I best support my body?

I will never have a baby.
I am willing to do whatever it takes to become a mother.

Learning to be more compassionate with yourself and less judgemental of situations in your life will allow you to do the same for others, which in turn will allow you to be a better parent.  You can learn to change that voice in your head that berates you and finds the negative in every situation, to a voice of compassion and, with practice, be your very own cheerleader!